Foreshore Project debate: The road ahead is not a highway 

By Henk Lourens, Vice President of CIfA

The demise of the City of Cape Town’s Foreshore Freeway Project understandably left a sour taste in the mouths of those who elected to participate in the process.

However, it provides an opportunity to reconsider the process followed by the political powers of the City and its administration to address not only the revitalisation of this precinct, but also issues such as the increase in traffic congestion, equitable housing and sensible development in the Cape Town Central City in a manner that will promote a people-friendly city to be enjoyed by all its inhabitants.

The Foreshore Freeway problem, like most inner-city highway/freeway projects, is the result of modernist planning policies and thinking, experienced globally. The confluence of this with apartheid social engineering in South Africa worked to separate people and communities – enough reason for removing freeways from the inner city, rather than constructing more. The freeway system most certainly does not assist the commute of the majority of Capetonians, who have to rely on a hugely dysfunctional and dangerous public transport system, but rather that of middle-class Capetonians – particularly those who are already sorted for transport and housing.

There is no argument that there is a dire need to unlock housing opportunities closer to work opportunities in and around the inner city, especially for those who are excluded either by economic or social inequalities. But these are not built on, under or over freeways. They are instead built in an environment where there is free access to resources like light, sun, fresh air, open space, green space and opportunities to work, play and relax. This is not at all what was proposed in the successful bid project with thousands of small units -– of which only 450 are ‘affordable” and arranged as a ‘crust’ around parking garages under freeways. These spill out onto relatively narrow sidewalks, which are artificially lit from under the highway.

In Cape Town the perpetuation of the freeway and its further completion should and can never be the driver for the future development of that portion of the foreshore.

Our Mayor was well intentioned when she declared her resolve to, during her tenure, complete the embarrassing edifice in our city and to unlock affordable housing opportunities in the process. However, the responsibility for this process cannot be transferred to developers who, for all their good intentions and contributions to the development of our city, are not focussed on the good of the much wider population of our city, but rather on opportunities to advance their own agendas.

We, the citizens of Cape Town, pay our politicians and the administration of the city to look after the interests of all of us. Over and above its own resources in urban design, town planning and transport planning, this city possesses a wealth of practicing knowledge, experience and skills in all these fields.

All of the professions required are well organised in voluntary associations that I am sure are willing to participate in the process. We are all keen to see advancement in the development of our city to the benefit of all its citizens, and we want to see the wounds of modernist planning and ‘apartheid’ engineering healed. It is a process that has been left unattended for too long, and it requires boldness and generosity from our city officials and politicians to move it forward.

The full article can be found on

To read how freeway removals have changed other cities forever, click here: